I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in late 2011, and started reading this second in the series immediately after finishing the first. I was initially very eager to finish the series, but this book is slower paced and gave me an opportunity to reflect on the series so far. This book, much like the other book, is very focused on hate and violence against women. I understand that Larsson was trying to make a point with the anger, but it is vicious and hard to read.
The Girl Who Played with Fire picks up about a year after the previous book ends, and begins with Lisbeth Salander travelling alone. Her story and that of Mikael Blomkvist progress independently throughout the novel, for the most part. They only really interact indirectly but for the times when Blomkvist rushes in to save Salander, by himself or with the assistance of her former guardian/father figure. It is infuriating, really – Salander is an interesting character, she and the other characters are careful to emphasize her strength and fierce independence, but throughout this book Salander has be be rescued repeatedly by the boring and unremarkable Blomkvist. There are a few other female characters, but much of their character seems to be illustrated through discussions of their sexuality. A few of the male characters are also primarily defined in terms of their sexual behaviour (particularly as much of the story relates to the sex trade), but not to the same extent as the cast of supporting female characters.
I am uncertain if I want to finish the series. I really enjoy Lisbeth Salander and would like to see where she ends up and learn more about her history, but the story itself is kind of boring while simultaneously angry. It is full of cliches, plodding espionage and crime plotlines, and saddled with a bland leading man.